Regaining SERP positions after a redesign that went wrong.
Planning is important.
Expert Court Reports commissioned a freelancer to redesign their website in late 2020 and the new site was launched on 1st November.
Unfortunately, the redesign process had not taken into account the existing site structure and technical on-page SEO that had previously been invested in.
Whilst the new design of the site looked great, the previously hard-won search rankings suffered as a result.
A common misconception among website owners is that SEO only needs to be done once. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
During the redesign process, numerous elements including code and pages can be altered. If they are not properly handled, it can negatively impact the website’s SEO and affect the long-term growth of the site. If done correctly, however, redesigning a website can also increase your SEO strength.
The Expert Court Reports site is the perfect example of this process. When the new site went live on the 1st of November average monthly organic traffic was around 100-150 visits per month. The decrease in organic rankings was instant and by early December the site was only receiving around 25 organic visitors a 75% decrease in traffic over a period of just 6 weeks.
This had the knock-on effect of our client noticing a significant decline in enquiries and when they searched for some keywords, they found that Expert Court Reports has slipped down in position on Google.
On inspecting the new site we found several factors that will have contributed to the loss in rankings and (as a result) organic traffic.
1 Site Structure Changes
The website’s menu structure had been completely changed, in particular, the experts and services sections which are where a lot of the rankings were established from.
2 Yoast on-page SEO Missing
The Yoast on-page SEO that had previously been completed in detail on every page and post of the site was missing. The developer had not cloned the site propr to rebuilding but statted a fresh and Yoast does not allow you to export and import on-page SEO data. This would mean manually copy and pasting across over 100 pages.
3 Off-the-shelf themes & page builders added
The new site was built on an off-the-shelf theme with a page builder. These elements are much heavier in terms of code and scripts than the previous lightweight bespoke theme had been. The site was now loading slowly with large DOM element size flagging (a common issue with builders).
Getting things working again.
We first tried reinstating the on-page SEO around the 7th of December but this was not the instant antidote to the problem the client needed.
It did have the effect of stopping the decline but the website data simply flattened out by the 13th of December and did not start to increase.
On January 6th we reinstated the old site (which we had kept backups of) and the response in the SERPs was almost instant. By the 22nd of January, the site had recovered its organic rankings and traffic to the levels seen pre November.
We had made some minor styling and menu structure changes whilst we worked on redesign the site in the background. The client started to report an increase in enquiries and the SERPs data reflected this.
We had managed to rescue the unintentional damage done by the website redesign but it had taken nearly two months. This should serve as a warning to anyone considering a website redesign without properly considering existing SEO value. It’s very easy to damage things but not so simple to repair them.
Once we had rescued the rankings we still had the problem that the client wanted a new website. We, therefore, went about the process of redesigning and building the existing website whilst retaining all the existing SEO value.
We cloned the site to a development server, built out a new ultra-lightweight bespoke theme. We retained all the existing content and site structure only made adjustments where absolutely necessary and implemented 301 redirects for any old links or content that needed to be removed. All the on-page SEO metadata was retained and some new content was added. We improved the calls to action on key landing pages and increased the internal linking.
New site live.
The new site went live on the 12th of March 2021.
After a short period of fluctuation (normal with any new website launch), the site settled and began to tick upwards in the organic rankings and search traffic again. This trend has continued and reached a peak in July with 460 organic visits in one day and 13 keywords in the top 3 search results.